Musings from Kyoto Japan, mostly on Mushrooms, Food, Travel and the like


Vegetable Life エドワード・ウェストンに敬意を表して

I took this earlier this week at Chuck Kayser’s organic farm, O.K.Fields in Kutsuki, Shiga. Memories of Edward Weston! These are destined for the Tomato sauce at Cafe Foodelica. これから美味しいオーガニックトマトソースになります!


Invitation to Contributors for Kyoto Journal 82 – the Food Issue


As many of you already know, I am the Guest Editor for the upcoming Kyoto Journal Issue, ‘Food’. Here is the gist of our invitation letter. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think that you – or someone you know – might be interested in submitting. Bon apetit! (PS, that’s not the actual cover, although I rather like it – Natto in my genkan).

We sincerely hope that you find some personal interest in this, our new project.
We’re very eager to hear suggestions and ideas for content for this issue.
And if you know anyone else who may also be interested, please do pass this on to them…



 “Some dishes seem to be charged with a psychic energy, a mana which makes them attract attention, generate interest, stimulate debate, inspire controversy and debates about authenticity. The same is true of certain artists” – John Lanchester, ‘The Gourmet’

 “A great dish is the master achievement of countless generations” – Curnonsky

 “The universe is nothing without the things that live in it, and everything that lives eats” – Brillat-Savarin

 “Much of the pleasure of food is a flirtation with decay” – Sean French, “First Catch Your Puffin”

We adore it, we abhor it, we need it, we leave it. Without it, we exist not. Food pervades every area of our thought and existence. Food allows us to live, when we are privileged enough to have it. It sustains us. It inspires us. It enslaves us. It educates us. It may kill us. It allows us to communicate with the Gods.

Your food is not mine, nor mine is yours, but we may share it, and in so doing, what joy. The sloth and the wolf eat, but only humans dine. Sometimes upon each other. There are rules for what we eat, and how. There are those who tell us what we should ingest. There are those who say we are what we eat. There are those who say we eat what we are.

Few remain silent on Food. And why would one? What a natural topic for discussion, discourse, eulogy, outrage, comedy, reflection, prayer, ire, poetry, love. Food defies time. It exists in the memory and the here and now. It is simultaneouslyuniversal and particular, literal and metaphoric, indelibly bound with meaning on an infinite variety of levels. Yet let’s not forget, it is also life-affirming, edible, incredible fun, a celebration of life itself. And so many of its greatest exponents and proponents live here in Asia.

 For all of the above reasons, we look forward with great anticipation to Kyoto Journal’s 82nd issue, due out in winter 2014 — our long-awaited special on Food. We seek tales, observations, musings: a sumptuous buffet of interesting, unusual ideas on Asian-related food and food lore. Coffee-table tomes already exist on everything from kaiseki menu planning to dining preferences amongst the headhunters of Borneo …so we are not looking for more of the same, including recipes or restaurant reviews. What we arehoping for is a balance of the personal and the profound, articles that mix wit, gravitas, novelty and spontaneity that will surprise and delight even the most jaded reader’s palate. Let us know what you’d like to cook up for what will surely be a memorable KJ feast!

—KJ 82 Guest Editor, John Ashburne


Kyoto Journal is a long-established non-profit, all-volunteer-based digital quarterly. Contributors receive a complimentary subscription, worldwide readership, and our deepest appreciation!

See also KJ 71, our wide-ranging special issue on Tea, guest-edited by Gaetano Kazuo Maeda:

India Food File ある一日の食事

Writing this at The Manor, a boutique hotel in one of Delhi’s wealthy, southern suburbs. The air is full of birdsong and car horns, and it’s a cool 18 degrees, almost chilly after the heat of Kerala. As ever, the food has been a highlight of the trip, though S and I both agree that the standard was universally higher on our last visit to India. Sorry Kerala, too much adulteration for the tourists, and attendant complacency. Though there were some outstanding exceptions – notably the Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel in Kochi & some of the dishes at the Fragrant Nature resort in Kollam – Tamil Nadu wins hands down. Here’s a ‘Day in the Life’ snapshot of my Kerala repasts – details below in Japanese and English.



左上~右下:朝ご飯:プトゥ[ココナッツごはん]とひよこ豆「カダラ」カレー;お昼ご飯:野菜カレ「ジャルフレージ」と五目炒飯。ウエイターのJobyにインド料理と中国料理!と怪訝そうに例の頭振りジェスチャーをされる。 おやつ:カレー風味野菜かき揚げ(インゲン/人参/ピーマン)と『スペシャル・ティー』ビール;晩ご飯:魚(ジャンバリと言う生節ぽいやつ)のステーキとレモンライス添え

Top L to Bottom R: Breakafast, Kadala Chickpea Curry with Putu, a steamed mix of coconut and rice; Lunch, Vegetable Jalfrezi with Mixed Fried Rice (‘Indian and Chinese!’ exclaimed the waiter, Mr Joby, with much head wobbling); Tiffin, Vegetable Pakora and ‘Special Tea’; Dinner, Fillet of Jambali Fish (Sea Bass?).

Sasha’s Home-made Pickles & her Cheese with Fresh Dill: Awesome!

She’s practising for her new cafe, and I am enjoying every minute of it!




女子アルバイト募集 京都市左京区修学院 European-style Cafe seeking オープン・スタッフ

Interested yourself? Know someone who might be? Get in touch. Interviews will be scheduled soon.

Suzuno Soba in Gifu City

Yesterday Sasha and I drove up to Gifu in the Jag to a Soba shop that I discovered earlier this year. Happy to report it is still great.


Takenoko bamboo aemono  w/Sansho






Mori Soba


Inaka Soba


Sobagohan Rice


Kurozato Black Sugar Pudding

Total cost was 2300 yen per person. Worth every penny.

How to Make Coriander Oil – Easy, Convenient and Tastes Wonderful

These wee fellers are springing up in my garden in a frenzy of wholly unanticipated early autumnal action (My history of coriander sativa cultivation has been patchy to say the least).

So I decided to make up some coriander oil, an all-purpose beauty that serves well as a dressing or for cooking with. Coriander seems to have as many detractors as fans (that’s cilantro for my transatlantic buddies) but I can’t get enough of the stuff.

Here’s a swift how-to: Prepare a pan of boiling water, and a bowl of ice water. Plunge the coriander into the boiling water for all of eight seconds, then put it immediately into the ice water, then strain off the water. This ensures that the coriander retains its bright green colour.

You can just pat off the excess water now, but I prefer to sun-dry it when the weather permits (as it did this morning).

Then combine equal amounts of extra-virgin olive oil and a lighter vegetable oil of your choice. As I happened to have some lying around, I used safflower oil. Quantities depend on how much coriander you have; around 50ml of each did me fine. The less oil you use, the stronger the resultant taste. There is the option to strain it through a sieve, but I can never be bothered.

Then blend the whole lot together with a clove of garlic, and a liberal sprinkling of ground black pepper, and sea salt. I like to add just a dash of sansho Szechuan pepper too. Et voila!

Store in a cold place and it should be ready for use after about a week. A little goes quite a long way. Nice with eggs, poultry, fish, and in onion raita and other Indian dishes. Mix it with coconut for a very South Indian taste. In the hot summer months consider upping the ratio of lighter oil, and including mint. It serves as the basis of a great vinaigrette.

“Quintessential Kyoto”: A Story I Wrote on Kyoto’s Michelin-starred Restaurants and the Like for Destinasian Magazine

I was very happy with this one which appears in the current (October/November) print issue, as I took all the photos (bar the Kyoto graphic) as well as doing the text.

Click here to see the full story in PDF format: Kyoto (1) including pics.

The story introduces celebrity chefs Kunio Tokuoka of Kitcho and Yoshihiro Murata of Kikunoi and I also recommend some favourite restaurants chosen by the ‘restaurant reviewer of the Louis Vuitton Kyoto Nara City Guide’. That’s me, btw. If you can’t be bothered with all those troublesome photos (my art!) here is a link to the Destinasian web version. Hope you like it.

The Great Glico One Piece Crunch Bar Swindle

Package length (flattened): 204mm
Ice Cream length: 91mm
Life sucks when your lolly is less than half the size of its wrapper…

Bangkok 5: Fish Ball Noodles

I didn’t know fish had…

I dropped in here for 35 baht ‘thin’ noodles. Good broth.

It’s a popular spot down near the Robinson department store on what used to be called New Road. By no stretch of the imagination could you call it sophisticated cuisine, but it hits the spot after a long day walking in a hot and dusty Bangkok.

Almost next door this lady was selling something that smelled fantastic in a Soi-side streetstall. I couldn’t read the Chinese characters completely, though I think ‘egg’ was in there.

Bangkok 6: Roast Duck@Prachak

Very popular spot also down near the Robinson Department store, featured in the Fodor guide to the city, thus frequented by well-heeled Farang tourists and locals.

The duck wasn’t bad, but I know what the Japanese evaluation would be: ‘Kusuri no Aji‘, ‘It tastes like medicine’. There is something in there – one person suggested it is turmeric – that is found in Japanese kampoyaku medicine, for sure.

Bangkok 4: The Thai Seasoning Arsenal and Tuna Graprow

From left to right: Siu Kao Soy sauce, Prik Nam Pla Thai Chili in Fish Sauce, Prik Nam Som Thai Vinegar with Chili, and Prik Pon Thai dried ground chili.

Bangkok 3: At the Praya Palazzo

I had lunch at the lovely Praya Palazzo, a former 17th-century Italo-Thai palace right on the Chao Phraya river.

I say ‘lunch’, but it was more a mini-banquet, under the kind tutelage of Poonpat Vadhanasindhu, aka Don.

Mixed Appetisers
– Kao Tang Nah Tang: rice puff (round shape) with minced pork sauce
– Satae Kai: Chicken Satay (Skewered Grilled Chicken with Peanut Sauce)
– Por Pia Tod: Spring rolls
– Toong Tong: Fried wonton
– Kai Hor Bai Toey: Grilled Chicken wrapped in Pandan leaves
These Toong Tong, fried wonton, were especially good.
Main dishes:
-Moo Pad Som Siaw: Pork and Eggplant stir-fried Curry. This was really fantastic, the eggplant had a smoky deep taste that it is really hard to find back in Japan.
Moo Pad Som Siaw
– Tom Kha Kai: Spicy Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk and Galangal.
– Pad Pak Nop Pa Kao: Stir-fried Mixed Vegetables.
-Gang-Ped Ped Yang: Roasted duck in Red Curry with Seasonal Fruits – Baby Tomatoes and Lychee.
– Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong: Pumpkin pudding
Foi Thong: Sweet Vermicelli Egg Yolk
– Ice Cream Ga-ti: Coconut ice cream
All these were great, but I especially liked the Foi Thong. Don told me it was created by a Japanese woman married to a Thai. Another source says “Foy Thong (Gold Egg Yolks Thread) is an ancient Thai dessert, which is served in auspicious ceremonies and was brought by Lady Witchayen in the period of King Narai. It is in popular group of desserts consisting of “Thong” (meaning “Gold”). Its name means treasure and its long thread means long life. Foreigners name it “golden hair”. Therefore, when used in ceremonies, Foy Thong is not cut.”
Another site says, “Khanom Foi Thong” or golden rain is made of egg yolk It looks like golden threads into hot syrub. This sweet is usually made for wedding ceremonies. Foi Thong is compared to the long lasting love of of brides and grooms.
Wikipedia goes with the Portuguese explanation, but does mention the Japanese ‘Keiran Soumen’:
“Like other egg-based Portuguese sweets, fios de ovos is believed to have been created by Portuguese monks and nuns around the 14th or 15th centuries.Laundry was a common service performed by convents and monasteries, and their use of egg whites for “starching” clothes created a large surplus of yolks.[2] The recipe was probably taken to Japan and Thailand by Portuguese explorers between the 16th and 18th centuries”.
Whatever its origin and name, it is scrumptious.
FYI, here is a sneak peak ofs what it looks like inside:

Bangkok 2: Streetfood around Khaosan Road

The ubiquitous Pad Thai, not at all bad this. At the place frequented by lots of Japanese backpackers on the Soi that runs East-West and parallel with Khaosan (the street with the Viengtai Hotel on it). Look for the sign that advertises food in Japanese and publicizes the waiter’s magic tricks.Cooking my dinner. Everything flambéed here!

Cauliflower and Shrimp stir-fry, next-door to the Japanese-favoured place, alas as not as good as it looked. Way too much garlic.

These stir-fried vegetables at the same place were, however, great. Note the ubiquitous Tuk-Tuk, which in Thai means ‘Cheap-Cheap’. They aren’t.

Sawadee Kap. On the Road. Bangkok 1: May Kaidee’s

Writing this in Chennai, India, having spent the last week in Bangkok working on a magazine story.

I have been a regular visitor to May Kaydee’s vegetarian restaurant whenever in the Khaosan Road area of BKK for some years now. My first Thai food this trip was their ‘Thai-style Veggie Spring Rolls’, seen here.

They come ‘with optional dipping sauce’ except I didn’t somehow get an option. It was a chili amayonaise dip. Nice n herby spring rolls with mint and coriander in there.

Here’s my fave cook at May Kaidee’s. Always teasing me for taking photographs of my food instead of just eating it.

My favourite is Yum Hou Plee, the Banana Flower Salad . She looked me straight in the eye, and said “I will make it hot for you”. A bit scary, that.

It was on the upper limits of my chili tolerance levels, but still damn tasty.

By the way, there are a couple of May Kaidee’s, one just down the street from where I go, and where you will indeed find the eponymous lady sometimes. But I prefer the smaller ‘original’ place. It looks like this:

And this (below). It is inexpensive, and thus popular with the backpacker fraternity. Earwigging on the next table’s (oft loopy) conversations is all part of the fun. this trip that included a spotty British youth trying to chat up a girl from Winnipeg with tall tales of Prince Harry’s friends lavish druggy lifestyle, and three earnest but slightly confused Germans wondering about the use of swastikas in Thai temple architecture.

To get there head to the east end of Khaosan Road (not the Police Station end), and look across the street and you’ll see the Air Asia office. Both MK’s are in the alleyway that runs North-South behind the airline office. The one I like is opposite the ‘At Home’ Guest House. Easy to find.

The Finest Tofu いいお豆腐、さすが京都

松籟庵の外観 Shoraian is a beautiful old tofu restaurant set in woodland in Arashiyama, Kyoto, overlooking the Oigawa River.

There’s tofu, then there’s tofu. Once you’ve sampled the good stuff, all else pales. Kyoto is bean curd central. In particular Sagano-Arashiyama in the West of the city, and the Nanzenji temple district in the East are famed. I live a short walk from Nanzenji, but the tofu here I sampled at Shoraian, one of my favourite Kyoto restaurants.


あわび豆腐@松籟庵 This is tofu with abalone or awabidofu. Of late abalone is becoming one of my preferred tastes. Not sure why. Perhaps it is thanks to this dish, which was superb.


Pickles and Shellfish in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market 錦市場の漬け物、貝類

秋なす Eggplants aka Nasu were probably the first blue-purple things I ever ate. They are best in the autumn in Japan. A famed Japanese adage says you should never give the best ones to your wife in case she becomes too accustomed to the finer things in life. Personally I would be more than happy to give Sasha the best eggplants.

帆立 Scallops or Hotategai, a favourite of mine. Ate them once up in Aomori Prefecture in a very rough and rustic bowl of Ramen. Looked ropey, tasted fantastic. The place was called Shirakaba Ramen, the Silver Birch noodle shop, if you ever find yourself hungry on the windswept Western coast of the Shimokita Hanto peninsula.

黄瓜のつけもの Pickled cucumbers. With a little togarashi pepper to add some bite to the crunch.

カキ Oysters, first eaten in Japan aboard boats on the river that runs through Hiroshima, so they say. Hiroshima is still famed for them, as is Kumihama in Northern Kyoto prefecture. Best in winter. An old friend of mine, Yoshito, runs a Sake brewery in Kumihama, and I remember a great outdoor party he threw many years ago when he ordered a huge consignment of fresh oysters from his fisherman friend, which he steamed in sake sakamushi-style in a giant cauldron.

たくあんずけ Pickled daikon radish, or Takuanzuke. This is home-pickled, and that colour is natural. Not many japanese people know it, but Takuan isnamed after a monk of the same name who lived in the Takagamine district of North-west Kyoto.

Sasha and I at Dell Orso This Afternoon


Nice day today. We wrote a letter to our sponsor child, Laxmi, in Kathmandu.

You Don’t See This Every Day: A Cat Eating Dried Natto 干納豆を食べるローラちゃん

Lola digs into sun-dried Natto from Ibaraki. She not only ate it, she ate a lot of it! That’s my girl…



Sasha and the Eiffel Tower. Not in Paris.


She didn’t eat it afterwards. That was Godzilla, I think.

Yumiko Utsuの作品







My titles, not hers, btw. i like her stuff. You?


Bought these but not quite sure what to do with them. Last time I used ‘ara’ to make fish-head soup it tasted like watery glue.


Here’s a new bilingual map to Dell’ Orso, FYI



All very festive.


今年も床瀬にいきました! 「ふる里」でしんそば食べました! We went to Tokose again this year to eat Soba at my friend’s place, ’Furusato’.

It’s a four-hour drive from Kyoto. All that way, just to eat soba? Not only the soba… Read on and drool.

なすのわさび和え、そば茶 Eggplant pickled in wasabi, with Soba-cha tea.


野菜の煮物 Slowly-simmered vegetable ‘nimono’.


山女(やまめ)の塩焼き Charcoal-grilled and salted river fish, ‘yamame’ (the name means ‘mountain woman’).


ゆうこちゃんが喜ぶ! Yuko-chan getting excited.


やまめがもうそろそろ死んでいます The yamame are still alive… just.


へへへ~!山女殺しやたちが深い反省を示さない No remorse for the yamame assassins, Sasha, Fumio and Yumiko.


自家製こんやく Freshly-made ‘devils tongue’ with ‘yuzu’ citron sauce.


鶏の「まつば」Mountain-chicken on the wishbone. It is called ‘matsuba’ as the bone shape resembles ‘matsu no ha’, pine-tree leaves.


ゆうこちゃんが食べます!Yuko gets stuck in.


なおみちゃんとTopherも Naomi and Toph too.


ふみふみとゆみこさん Fumio and Yumiko.


満願寺唐辛子、どんこ椎茸、やまめ Manganji green peppers, the best shiitake mushrooms and yamame.


山の幸が凄い It was quite a spread that the mountain had laid on (with some assistance from my friend Taniguchi-san).


「ふる里」の床瀬そばだ Finally we turned to… Tokose Soba. Taniguchi-san made the buckwheat noodles freshly for us (as always). They were magnificent (as always).


そばとやくみ、最高!Served with grated wasabi, yuzu citron and negi welsh onions. Perfect.


Aaronと私は「7」ちゃんで行った。皆さんお疲れさまでした Aaron and I went up in the Seven. As you may well imagine, it was a lot of fun.


Aaronが撮った写真はここでござんす Aaron’s far superior photos are, I have just realised, here:

やっぱ、山男が出ってきました Here is one of aaron’s photos of the Lesser-Spotted Tokose Mountain Baboon.. Notice the unusual hair-styling, and the wild bulging eyes that indicate that the wild creature is about to devour something.